Wrap it up miscellany
There was a selection of felt pieces in the exhibition, and an entire chapter
of the book Timbuktu to Tibet was devoted to felt. Felting is a simple but
labor-intensive process and some researchers believe that felt fabrics were the
first fabrics made, but Thompson notes "It may seem that this low-tech system
for producing such a useful fabric would have been in use long before the
invention of weaving, but this is not the case. Evidence of weaving using linen
thread appears in the archaeological record even before the domestication of
Several felt pieces were found in the Pazyryk burials from 350BCE.
This piece, from the Vinay Pande Collection, is Kyrgyz, 20th century. According to Thompson, "Among both the Kyrgyz and the Kazakh the technique of making decorative felts developed into a magnificent art form." As Thompson notes at the beginning of the Felt chapter, "In what has turned out to be a kind of survey of the textile crafts, attention must be given here to felt."
This easily overlooked observation seems to summarize both the exhibition and the catalog. Although probably not representative of the majority of Haji members' "mainstream" antique rug collections, the exhibition includes felts, embroideries, silk weavings, clothing, curtains, velvets, bags, carriers, hangings, covers and even a rug or two. It is a reflection of the varied interests of the Haji Baba Club members and the inclusion of many obscure fabrics is an attempt at inclusiveness rather than a representation of the relative percentage of the types of pieces owned by Haji Baba members.
This next iconic piece is from the Domestic Embroidery chapter, Uzbekistan, 19th century, silk, cotton, 30"x30" (76x76cm) from the Marshall & Marilyn R. Wolf collection. To me it feels like Art Deco Meets Industrial Revolution.
"This...was made for interior decoration in continuation of an older tradition in which similar items served as containers inside the tent." It is a knockout piece of art, of overwhelming impact.
There were several fragments of older pieces in the exhibition and this was one which serves to show us just how far the art of rug weaving has declined in a short 400 years or so. It is a Safavid fragment from the 16th century, also from the Wolf collection. It is 48"x40" (122x105cm). It is a border section from a carpet whose pair is in the Austrian Museum of Applied Art. As Thompson indicates, "It was during his (Shah Tahmasp) reign that the Persian 'decorative' arts reached a pinnacle of excellence which many people consider has never been surpassed."
Here is a Shahsevan bag from the Caravans, Covers $ (oops, should be &) Containers chapter. It is 19th Century from the Bruce and Olive Baganz collection. It is unfortunate that the picture is so small, since the impact this piece has in person is overwhelming.
The colors are a masterpiece of the dyers art and the design is both refined and dynamic. Note the orange. Brilliant.
The exhibition will be at the Textile Museum this fall, so if you have an opportunity to view it, I highly recommend it. Just don't touch the pieces or take pictures!!! The catalog, although a tour-de-force, does not do the actual weavings justice.
I will post a final group of photos tomorrow!
The orange has been duly noted.
Great selection. All of these pieces are spectacular.
I have a weakness for bags with cool backs, and the khorjin (last piece in your post) has a back that's as cool as any I've seen.
I can only wish to have a good back, but its too late for that, however I concur with Steve, that last
is a dazzler - and Patrick, those colours!!
Amen. I agree with Steve, the back of that Shah Sevan bag set is about as good as they get.
I don't want to lean on the orange issue, because I will seem like a crank. In fact, I'm mostly kidding about orange. However, I am very curious as to your assessment of the oranges in that pair. I note that there seems to be two distinct oranges: the red-orange and the paler shade, like sherbet. When you were looking at the piece directly, was your impression that they were naturally dyed colors? Did you have any trouble accepting the age estimate as 19th century?
"Art deco meets industrial." Good line! Thanks again for this array and the whole salon.
The Baganz Shahsevan piece could have been made yesterday, but I do not believe anyone trying to fake an old bag would make it in this condition, nor with these colors. Orange was a favorite color until synthetics dethroned it. This bag is a masterpiece of design, the pinnacle of perfection for such an object. It was obviously very special for the first owner and subsequently remained intact.
There are collectors who have money and access to prime pieces such as this one, just not me or you! I have never attended a Sotheby's or Christies or other high-end rug auction, mostly because I do not live near them and also because I do need to make a mortgage payment once in a while.
You don't find them at a rummage sale or flea market. I expect it was liberated from the Caucasus after the fall of the Soviet Union, brought to Istanbul and then to auction.
I will ask Bruce next time I see him at a Haji Baba meeting...
Orange, green, purple...
I have a theory about my own aesthetic tastes when it comes to colours. (Because the theory is about me, I am expecting only a modest amount of critique, especially since my wife and close friends don't seem to follow Turkotek closely).
I think that the most important aspect of aesthetic appeal for a weaving is the presence and quality of "secondary" colours. Seldom does a rug with just primary colours (red, blue, yellow and I'll include white) come alive from a colour perspective. However, add a bit of nice orange or green and the weaving comes alive. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it is just the shear number of colours, or maybe it is the "bridging" of primary colours through the secondary colour. A case in point might be this one, shown by Patrick above. If this was just red, blue, yellow and white I think it wouldn't work. The green (and maybe orange??) this is much more effective.
Either way, I think that one of the reasons the "natural dyes" tend to work much better than synthetics is that they are secondary combinations of the other primary colours. When a secondary colour (green or orange) is synthetic and seems to come from a different colour spectrum, this effect is lost and becomes jarring, rather than dynamic.
Any other thoughts on this? Any good examples?
P.S. I would be more than happy just to have the dazzling back of that khorjin. Wow.
I didn't intend to raise the prospect of a recent weaving masquerading as antique. I was wondering whether it seemed pre-1900 to you; or later, but exhibiting very high quality. In addition, I wondered whether you saw the oranges as likely natural dyes, or otherwise. I realize full well that one's impression as to either question isn't very authoritative, especially when one is not able to handle the merchandise. Your impressions would probably be more authoritative than most, on account of the thousands of hours in the state-of-the-art secure vault handling rare items.
Anyway, it is a dazzler. I find speculations about the intent and purpose of the weaver to be somewhat tedious most of the time, but it would be very interesting to know what the purpose was for this weaving. One can easily entertain the notion of a dowry piece or a special gift.
The question of "natural" or not also comes up in other non-rug areas and is
a regular pastime for some folks.
This piece looked like a really great bag way out of my league of collecting. The colors worked very well together. I think if the colors were synthetic, we wouldn't see the variety of colors. The pinkish-red looked insect dyed. I do not recall if there was any silk, but the weaver used top-quality materials and dyes and the construction was spectacular. Whoever wove this was very experienced in the milieu. It may have been commercially made for formal use, kind of like dress uniforms for the military.
There were definitely pieces in the exhibition with synthetic colors and they were pointed out in the catalog and on identifying labels. I think Bruce Baganz has the resources to have the dyes tested.
Get Your Mind Out Of The Gutter
To take your mind off that brilliant bag, here is a selection of some of the other pieces in the exhibition.
This first one ought to make you forget the Baganz Bag for a while, but it also Belongs to Bruce, and is noted as possibly being from the Hashtrud area. It is said to possibly be an end-panel from a bedding bag.
I am beginning to get an insight into the collecting trend in the Baganz family.
Here is a piece from the chapter on Village and Commercial Rugs from Iran. This is a Bijar from the Marc Feldman Collection, 42' x 48" (106.5 x 122 cm). It is a Harshang design. Thompson notes the main border similarity to Khamseh rugs.
This next piece is from the chapter on Village and Commercial Rugs from the Caucasus. It is East Caucasian pre-1880, 40 1/2" x 61 1/2" (102 x 156 cm) from the William Fern Collection. Thompson notes it has features suggesting Shirvan-Kuba, but it is "almost impossible to know where these old pieces came from."
And to round out this selection of pieces from the exhibit, here is a yastik from Mr & Mrs Ezra P. Mager. It is "probably from western Turkey. There can be little doubt that its central design derives ultimately from expensive velvet cushions made in the seventeenth century....The corner-pieces, however, derive from an entirely different and much older source...such corner brackets are seen in carpets depicted in Chinese paintings, thought to be careful copies of lost twelfth-century originals."
This brings to a close the Salon on Timbuktu to Tibet, the Haji Baba Club 75th anniversary exhibition. I strongly recommend you visit the exhibit when it travels to DC. I also recommend the book. It is a celebration not only of the collections of the Haji Baba's, but also of the lifetime of study and interest in oriental weavings by Jon Thompson.
Need toadies apply?
The colors in these last pieces are absolutely stunning. Thanks so much for this terrific salon.
Are you still accepting toadies?
I figured it out. Baganz is coloring them himself! I don't know how he's doing it, but he has to be. The end panel from the bedding bag clinched it.
Great job on the salon.
Toadies Need Not Apply
No Toadies needed now. Just send money. If each of the one million Turkotek readers sends $5 to me, I can afford to buy a nice rug like the Doris Duke Isphahan which just sold at Christies for $4.5 million.
And if I don't reach my goal of $5 million in Toady funds, I can always get out the dye kit and make my own rugs.
I wonder if that rug will join the Haji Baba exhibition in DC?
Hold on the Doris Duke Isphahan at $4.5 million. I just checked out the link, and I see the colors have faded to beige on the surface, clear evidence of Fuchsine. They had it in 1600, courtesy of some "Chariots of the Gods" aliens who visited briefly to introduce the dye "before its time." But just think of the two or three saddlebags of Baganz quality you'll be able to pick up with the five million you'll still have.
My check for $5.00 is in the mail.
You can even say it glows...
In another current thread (in the fancy new forums), James Blanchard comments on what earlier tribal weavers might have done had they had access to later 'electric' orange dyes. Your 17th century fuschine fantasy got me to thinking.
Until fairly recently, we in the West maintained the belief that classical Greek art and architecture was characterized by the purity of white marble. Now we know, of course, that all of those seemingly pristine, austere pieces were vividly, perhaps luridly painted. Some of our current attempts at historical reproduction represent them as almost cartoonish.
Do we engage in similar romantic distortion in our assessments of the color preferences of tribal weavers at the "high points" of their weaving traditions? Perhaps what kept the oranges from glowing in the dark before the late 19th century was less the maintenance of aesthetic traditions and instead the inability to yet produce such modern visual marvels. Can "bad" orange be created with insect and vegetable dyes?
So, perhaps those of us with refined preferences for mellowing naturally-dyed weavings have just lucked out because earlier tribal weavers didn't have the wherewithal to get to day-glo.
Not Just Orange
A recent article in the Science News magazine supports your contention that colors were used in ancient sculpture:
Pre-synthetic dyers most certainly had access to nearly every shade of orange imaginable. Madder is a miracle dye and can be made in almost uncounted shades, intensities and varieties.
It was the advent of synthetic dyes that narrowed the range of madder orange colors and perhaps forever tainted the acceptance of orange.
Weavers jumped on the synthetics as soon as they could get their hands on them, and the colors on old textiles were undoubtedly more vivid when they were new than they are today. Also, if you visit any of the weaving regions you'll see the garish colors the village people (not to be confused with The Village People) prefer for their own stuff.
Good points, all. I don't doubt many weavers would have gotten Derek Dyckman's hat (see other thread) into the rug if they could have. And yet, many weavers apparently went to some lengths to maintain the tradition of natural dyes well after the introduction of synthetics. One wonders what attitudes attended these usages.
Patrick, I like your point that the introduction of the (garish) synthetic oranges had the effect of narrowing the range of orange shades employed.
Hi Pat, et al,
Personally, that "Bijar" (or whatever it is) is my favorite. It looks like a wegirah for the entire region, if not a little more. Is it a Bijar ? or an Avar ? or a Karagashli ? a few classic Shah Abbas palmettes from Tabriz ? And, it leaves me with the haunting feeling that the weaver is a direct descendent of the person who wove the 18th century Ballard collection Yomut main carpet...
All in all, though, it leaves me with a strong impression that it is from Kuba rather than Bijar.
Nice finale !
"A wagireh for the entire region..." Good observation, and I think to an extent, you may actually be right. If anybody produces more wagirehs, and more varieties of how they are set up, than the Bijaris, I'm not remembering them. The size is telling (small, but with a "big" design). The careful approach to quality of color must have some significance. Now to hunt up the Ballard collection Yomut to see what you meant by that...unless you care to throw out a hint.
Here it is, straight out of Mackie & Thompson's "Turkmen Tribal Carpets and Traditions":
It's listed as an 18th century piece. In detail, quite different, but still a familiar "look" to those medallions.
Ah yes! How could I forget that piece? It does have a similar "look," one that I happen to like a lot, BTW. Thanks for posting it.